Don't spend so much getting to and from work

10 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Your Commute

by Gary Foreman

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How much of your life do you spend commuting? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 85% of all workers drive to work. If you're an average driver, you'll spend 25 minutes commuting.

How far you drive varies widely. Nearly a third (29%) report commuting only 5 miles or less one way. But 8% have commutes of 35 miles or more!

So with the cost of gas hovering near $4 per gallon and your time becoming more valuable each day, how can you reduce the cost of commuting or at least make the time spent more profitable?

Change your business hours. It's called "rush hour" for a reason. Everyone is rushing to get to work or to get home. Many jobs will allow you to shift your working hours, so you're not commuting during peak travel times. Start your day an hour earlier or later and you could reduce the time you spend commuting by half.

Reduce the number of working days. For many jobs, the eight-hour day and five-day week are becoming obsolete. Check with your employer to see if you could work four ten-hour days each week. You'll reduce your cost and time spent by 20%.

Work from home. The days when you could leave the office behind at the end of the work day is over. If you're an information worker, you're connected via cell phone, email, text, and internet. Your employer may even expect you to check in electronically on the weekend. Why not take that connectivity to the next level and work from home one or two days each week?

Carpool. Three out of four workers commute alone. A carpool can cut your costs dramatically. Not only will you save, but you'll also get to know someone on a personal level and might even make a lifelong friend.

Use mass transit. You won't save time. In fact, it'll probably lengthen your commute, but you will save money. And you can pay full attention to anything that you'd like to read or listen to while your local transit authority does the driving.

Bike to work. For many, it's not practical, but if you're lucky enough to be able to bike to work, you'll save dollars and get a workout at the same time. Many bikers say that peddling past cars stuck in rush hour traffic makes the ride so much more pleasant!

Learn something while you drive. There are plenty of courses available in audio. Whether you want to learn a new language or brush up on home repair techniques, there's a CD or podcast to help you do that. Just remember that you can't take notes while driving!

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Listen to your favorite podcasts. There are innumerable podcasts available for download. Search for "podcast directories" to see which ones would pique your interest. Download an episode or two. You won't like all of them, but some will become regular partners on your commute.

Exercise your mind. Just like your muscles, your brain grows stronger when it's worked. So instead of daydreaming while you sit in traffic, work some brain teasers. Use the time to challenge your mind. Memorize the Declaration of Independence or a passage from a favorite book. Make sure your brain is stronger when you get out of the car than when you got in.

Listen to good music. Scientists have begun to discover that certain music can help promote heath and well-being. Use your commute time to listen to some of the world's best music. While you can't close your eyes (you are driving after all), you can soothe your soul.

True or False

Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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